The first of the four Aramco Team Series events ended with the team of Olivia Cowan, Sarina Schmidt and Diksha Dagar – aided by amateur Andrew Kelsey – lifting the title at Centurion.
It is a first Ladies European Tour title for both captain Cowan and Schmidt, while Dagar adds a second to the SA Women’s Open she won in 2019.
The team had led by two going into the third and final day, but were trailing when Cowan holed out from 80 yards on the 13th to send them back to the top.
“That was where we picked up momentum,” Schmidt said of the eagle. The team went on to finish 41-under-par in the two-scores-to-count event, three clear of their nearest rivals.
“I can’t put it in words how amazing it is,” Cowan said. “To share it with one of my best friends is just incredible as well.
“I got really lucky with my team. I knew I wanted to pick Sarina two weeks ago and then to have Diksha on the team as well. I knew she was a great player and that she could hole some putts, so I knew we had a good chance.
“We all just complemented each other. We were all so great out there – a proper team.
“We weren’t looking out to win the individual, we were going out there as a team to win the team event and that’s paid off.”
The individual event was won by Marianne Skarpnord, who beat Atthaya Thitikul in a play-off to deny the teenage Thai sensation back-to-back LET titles.
“To win this event is very special,” the now five-time LET champion said. “I think this concept is so, so good and we’ve had so much fun this week.
“I love the format. It’s so much fun when you’re a team and you have to do well for someone else as well – not just yourself.”
Also a huge shout-out to NCG’s own Hannah Holden, who played as the amateur in Team Malik. Hannah shot 78-70-78 on the par-73 track to contribute hugely to her team finishing in a tie for 9th.
What is the Aramco Team Series?
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stand over a putt to win a professional golf tournament? Well 36 of you will get to do that as the Aramco Team Series is officially launched for the 2021 Ladies European Tour season.
The new event will feature some of the LPGA and Ladies European Tours’ biggest names – including major champions – in four events across four different countries. And amateurs will be joining them. Here’s everything what do you need to know…
A series of four three-day tournaments that will take place across the world – starting in the UK in July.
And when will it take place?
The Aramco Team Series will begin at Centurion, near London, from July 8-10.
It will then move to Sotogrande, in Spain, from August 5-7, New York from October 14-16, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from November 10-12.
How will it work?
Each Aramco Team Series tournament will see 36 captains lead teams of four, who will compete to shoot the lowest combined score over three days at each venue.
All teams will feature three LET players picked through a draft system, in which captains choose one player and are randomly assigned another.
Then it starts to get fun. The fourth member of each team will be an amateur golfer – a position open to all golfers in the UK – through the tournament’s ‘Team Up’ competition.
That means it could fall to YOU to hole a Ladies European Tour title-winning putt to secure prize money for the professional players, something we’ve never seen before on tour.
So who’s in?
In terms of major winners, Lexi Thompson is the headline star. The 2014 ANA Inspiration champion and former World No 3 will be joined by Georgia Hall, who won the Women’s Open in 2018, and Anna Nordqvist, whose CV includes the 2009 ANA and 2017 Evian Championship.
Last year’s LET Order of Merit winner Emily Kristine Pedersen is also confirmed.
Later in June four more players were confirmed, including major champion and Solheim Cup legend Catriona Matthew.
The 2009 Women’s Open winner is joined in the field by five-time LPGA Tour winner and two-time LET winner Minjee Lee, five-time LET winner Anne van Dam, and Charley Hull, whose two LET victories sandwiched her huge win at the LPGA’s season-ending Tour Championship in 2016.
What’s the prize money like?
There’s a $1 million purse for the Aramco Team Series, $200,000 of which will go to the pro with the lowest individual score for the week.
What are they saying?
Thompson, who despite being just 26 has played in 51 majors, said: “It is really exciting to have not only a brand new format to look forward to, but to have another big event on the LET schedule in the UK. It’s a place I love to visit and play golf, so I can’t wait to get going in July.”
Hall, who has played in two Solheim Cups including a 4-0-0 record at Gleneagles in 2019, is also excited about the Aramco Team Series becoming a regular fixture on tour.
“It’s a new format and it’s different,” she said. “And will only be a force for good in women’s golf.
“Investment like this is fantastic to see and to be able to take the game to new venues around the world and inspire the next generation of young golfers is a really wonderful thing to be part of. Starting in London will, for me, make it extra special.
“It’s a really great addition to the Tour that I think most of us can’t wait to get playing in.”
Matthew, who has been involved in 10 Solheim Cups as player and captain – winning four – and will lead Europe again in September, said: “It’s certainly shaping up to be quite the field – which is understandable considering the exciting new format of the team tournament and what’s up for grabs.
“Being just a couple of months before the Solheim Cup adds a real bit of spice to the mix, especially with so many major-winners from both sides of the pond playing.
“As the Solheim Cup has proven, team golf is a format that really gets the heart-racing and brings so much additional excitement. Introducing four new Aramco Team Series events in four regions, I find a really fantastic initiative from the LET and I really am excited to see how it will propel women’s golf forward.”
World No 14 Lee added: “When this format was trialed last year you could really feel how positively the women who played in it responded to it.
“It was something completely different but a format of golf that offered so much excitement, both for teams and individual players, and that’s what you want to see as often as possible on Tour.
“It’ll be really fun to play in and I can’t wait to get over to London and play as part of a team – something I love but almost never get to do!”
LET CEO Alexandra Armas added: “To the LET, the Aramco Team Series events are a massive moment of elevation for the women’s game, and to have a field as strong as we do is fantastic.
“We are always more than happy to do things a little differently – take risks, try new things and mix up the way we play and experience golf. That’s certainly what the Aramco Team Series promises to do.
“The action at Centurion will open an exciting new chapter in women’s golf and one we see as playing a massive role in the continued growth of the game.”
Aramco’s Ahmed Al-Subaey said: “We are thrilled to be backing events that we believe have the potential to shake things up and truly elevate women’s golf internationally, and spur it in Saudi Arabia. When the concept was first introduced to us, we saw it as a natural fit for our investment into world sports and our continued support of women’s sport.
“It is our honour to be title sponsors of the Aramco Team Series, and the other three Ladies European Tour events we will support this year, and we look forward to being there every step of the way as women’s golf continues to grow and expand its reach throughout the world.”
And that’s not all…
Three of the LET stars have volunteered to act as role models and share their stories with young women from The Girls’ Network, a national mentoring charity aimed at inspiring and empowering girls from the UK’s least advantaged communities to be ambitious about their futures.
The activity is an extension of Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club, which was launched at the 2020 Aramco Saudi Ladies International and saw 1,000 women and girls in Saudi Arabia receive their first golf club memberships, as well as online resources designed to help them participate in the sport.
Rachel Drummond, Hannah Burke and Leonie Harm have each committed time to share their own stories, experiences, lessons and successes as a means of instilling self-confidence and the ability to overcome challenging surroundings.
The Girls’ Network established a one-to-one mentoring programme for 30 young women in 2013. It has since grown to be a vital resource for more than 1,000 girls between the ages of 14 and 19 each year, operating across England, and now as the official charity of the London event.
In the mentoring workshops, which will be staged virtually due to Covid-19 considerations, the golfers will share insights and personal experiences with girls who may face barriers due to gender, ethnicity, or low-income households.
The Aramco Team Series will further support the charity in its mission to empower young women by delivering content during its ‘Bring the Energy’ campaign, highlighting the important role The Girls’ Network plays in the lives of those it touches.
At each of the four annual team events, organisers will partner with local organisations to support the work they do in improving the lives of girls and young women, while introducing new international members to the Ladies First Club along the way.
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